Prayers for the dead

Hello! I was in a Faith/Spirtuality class. The instructor is Roman Catholic. She made a statement that she had recently learned that Lutherans do not pray for the dead and that she can't believe that we do not. How do we Lutherans know that they went to heaven. She needs all the prayers she can get both now and forever. She needs to be cleansed. She could not wrap her finger around our choice not to. Please explain so I have clarity. Thanks!

We do not pray for those who have died because in the case of Christians those prayers are unnecessary, and in regard to unbelievers those prayers are futile.

When death occurs, judgment also takes place (Luke 16:19-31; Hebrews 9:27).  When people die, their souls are immediately in heaven or hell.  There is no intermediate state.  There is no need to pray for anyone who is in heaven; theirs is a perfect existence in the presence of God.  It would do no good to pray for someone whom we believe to be in hell; God’s judgment is final and our prayers would not affect their condition.

Of course, if people misunderstand what the Bible says about salvation, they will likely misuse prayer in praying for those who have died.  If people think that they—in any way—contribute to their salvation, there will be doubt.  Questions and requests like these might then arise:  “Have I done enough?” “Can I do enough?”  “Do something for me after I die, like praying for me.”

How sad that is.  Scripture presents salvation as an accomplished fact and truth.  Jesus lived up to his name which means “Savior.”  He won our salvation.  He announced that on the cross when he cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30).  Salvation is God’s doing (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7).  Because Jesus did everything necessary for our salvation, Christians can be absolutely sure that when death comes, they will be in heaven.  We have the Lord’s own word on that (Mark 16:16; John 3:16; 5:24).